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Photo of Alexandre Meinesz Alexandre Meinesz as seen on Mediterranean On the Rocks: The Green Invader

Click on Alexandre's photo to read a brief bio.

q I too have experienced "The Green Invader", as I am a reef aquarium hobbyist. I found this segment very interesting and I was wondering the scientific name of the mollusk that eats the Caulerpa. Does it eat other species of Caulerpa too? Also, I would be very interested in the name of a source for the mollusk as well as any information on keeping them and breeding them. Thank you so much for any info you can provide. (Question from Matt)

A The names are Elysia subornata and Oxynoe azuropunctata. They do eat other species of Caulerpa: Caulerpa sertularioides, C. verticillata and C. paspaloides principally. We have the specimens from Marinique. This species can also be found in the Florida Keys, but they are rare. Unfortunately, the scientist who specialized in these slugs died last year (Professor Clark from Melbourne University in Florida). A student at Melbourne University, Cecilia Mills, now continues to work with the slugs.

q Have you considered using genetic manipulation to alter the plants to render them unable to reproduce or unable to produce the toxic substance within them? I am glad you are working on the problem and I wish you the best of luck at finding a solution. (Question from Brooke)

A No, genetic manipulation is not possible because the algae does not reproduce sexually. Only vegetative reproduction, and against this we can do nothing with genetics!

q Where does the word 'Caulerpa' come from and what does it mean? (Question from Michael, age 11)

A Caulos mean axis, and Erpa in Latin means creep. So Caulerpa means "the axis that creeps" or creeping axis.

q How did you first make the connection between a sea slug in Florda and an invasive algae in the Mediterranean? (Question from Terry)

A I first made this connection with the help of Professor Clark from Melbourne University Florida (Professor Clark died last year). See a previous answer for more information about the slug and the student who is carrying on research with it.


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
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